Arts and Humanities
Tara Aisha Willis, Tisch School of the Arts
Tara received her Ph.D. in Performance Studies in January 2022. Her dissertation, "Dancing Blackness: Kinetic Theorizations of Race in Contemporary Improvised Choreographies," directly addresses the complexities of what it means to be Black in the contemporary moment through the lens of making dances and dancing while Black. Her research works against racial inequality in dance scholarship, shifting away from linear, white-centered dance historical narratives to emphasize complex entanglements of lineage and influence, interpersonal relationships, and individual and collective agency. The dissertation expands the presence of several underrecognized but pivotal Black, avant-garde dance artists in the archival record of the present and explores how dance and race are mutually, albeit differently, intricate, malleable, and indescribable, centering two contemporary, improvisation-based performances.
Tara is currently Curator in Performance & Public Practice at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and a lecturer in dance at the University of Chicago.
Public Health & Allied Health
Lauren Ghazal, Rory Meyers College of Nursing
Lauren received her Ph.D. in Nursing Research and Theory Development in May 2021. Her dissertation, "Exploring Multilevel Factors Influencing Quality of Life in Young Adult Cancer Survivors: A Mixed Methods Study" explores the relationship of work-related goals and quality of life in young adult hematologic cancer survivors. Specifically, study aims are to 1) describe the relationships between patient-reported individual characteristics (distress, anxiety and depressive symptoms, cognitive function, fatigue, and financial health), work-related characteristics in the microsystem (job control, workplace support, psychological job demands, physical job demands, and job security), and quality of life; 2) explore symptom experiences, work-related goals, work ability, self-identity, and perceived psychosocial needs; and 3) examine the relationship of individual and work-related characteristics to generate profiles of the work-related goals and quality of life relationship.
Lauren is currently a T32 postdoctoral research fellow in Cancer Care Delivery in the School of Nursing at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Science & Technology
Johannes Morstein, Graduate School of Arts and Science
Johannes received his Ph.D. in Chemistry in May 2021. His dissertation, “Optical Control of Lipid Signaling,” describes the development and application of molecular photoswitches to control biological functions with light. Light affords high spatial and temporal resolution and can thus be used to precisely manipulate biological networks. The biology of lipids is particularly complex, with over 40,000 different lipid molecules known to date, many of which have important functions and are implicated in disease. Newly developed tools enable the optical control of various lipid-mediated processes and allow scientists to study their function in cells and model organisms. In addition to gaining new biological insights, these results also show much promise for the development of new forms of targeted photodynamic therapy.
Johannes is currently a National Cancer Institute K00 postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology at the University of California in San Francisco.
Sudarshan Pinglay, Vilcek Institute of Graduate Biomedical Sciences
Sudarshan received his Ph.D. in Cell Biology in January 2022. His dissertation, “Synthetic Regulatory Reconstitution: A Novel Framework for the Study of Gene Regulation” lays out a "constructionist" strategy for understanding how genes are turned on and off in our bodies during development and in disease. Despite the identification of over a million regulatory elements in the human genome, an understanding of how they work together has remained elusive. Inspired by Richard Feynman’s famous aphorism, “What I cannot create, I do not understand,” Sudarshan developed tools to build gene regulatory mechanisms from the ground up in mammalian genomes. Failure to recapitulate the expected gene expression pattern using the elements that are implicated in its control reveals gaps in understanding; therefore, repeatedly applying this approach to many different contexts will help elucidate the grammar of the genome, thereby deciphering the genetic causes of disease and potentially to cures through gene therapy.
Sudarshan is currently a postdoctoral fellow within the Institute for Systems Genetics at NYU Langone.
Lucia Motolinia Carballo, Graduate School of Arts and Science
Lucia received her Ph.D. in Political Science in January 2022. Her dissertation, “Trading Pork for Unity: How Parties Respond to Electoral Reforms in Party-Centered Systems,” provides a theory that re-examines the conventional wisdom about candidate-centered systems to explain why, under certain conditions, electoral rules that incentivize legislators to cultivate a personal vote can reinforce the characteristics of party-oriented systems. In particular, she applies methods of causal inference and text analysis to study the effects of Mexico’s 2014 Electoral Reform, which lifted an 80-year-old ban on consecutive reelection, on the legislative behavior of local legislators in Mexico. Her findings help us better understand the strategic behavior of parties and politicians in the wake of the many electoral reforms that have been recently implemented across the world.
Lucia is currently Assistant Professor of Political Science at Washington University in St. Louis.
Roni Barak Ventura, Tandon School of Engineering
Roni received her Ph.D. in Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering in September 2021. Her dissertation, “Exploring Design Principles Toward Enhanced Engagement in Technology-Mediated Telerehabilitation,” uses an interdisciplinary approach that incorporates concepts from medicine, biomechanics, mechatronics, and human psychology to explore different aspects of technology-mediated telerehabilitation design, and lay the foundation for citizen science-based telerehabilitation that capitalizes on individual intellect, interest, and social value. She evaluates and develops four design aspects of telerehabilitation: incorporating social interactions into citizen science and studying their effects on engagement and motivation; designing 3D-printed retrofit attachments to personalize interface interaction and target specific joint movements; developing a citizen science platform dedicated for training of bimanual movements; and creating a machine learning algorithm to identify movements patients perform in order to provide automated motion analysis and smart feedback.
Roni is currently an engineering analyst in the Division of Civil, Mechanical, and Manufacturing Innovation at the National Science Foundation.
Erin Glennon, Vilcek Institute of Graduate Biomedical Sciences
Erin Glennon received her Ph.D. in Neuroscience and Physiology in September 2021. Her dissertation, "Locus Coeruleus Activity Improves Cochlear Implant Performance,” investigates how neuromodulation enhances plasticity within the central auditory system during cochlear implant use. To address this question, this work combined operant conditioning in freely moving animals with electrophysiological, optogenetic, and imaging methods to monitor and manipulate neural activity during auditory behavior in normal hearing rodents and rats with cochlear implants. These studies provided essential data on basic mechanisms of neuromodulation and plasticity in the auditory cortex, required for improvement of prosthetic design and therapeutic strategies for treatment of deafness and language disorders.
Erin is currently finishing medical school as part of the Medical Scientist Training Program at New York University Grossman School of Medicine in New York, New York.
Harris Kornstein, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development
Harris Kornstein received their Ph.D. in Media, Culture, and Communication in September 2021. Their dissertation, "Queer Enchantment: Contours, Cruising, Crystal Visions, and Other Queer Tactics for (Not) Being Seen," examines intersections of queerness and surveillance capitalism, proposing “queer enchantment” as a set of for avoiding, mitigating, and directly challenging observation. Drawing on digital media theory and queer studies, they document creative queer/trans cultural practices like drag performance, queer-run transportation networks, and mystical spiritual practices like tarot and astrology that counter both social and digital forms of control. Contrary to traditional discourses of privacy or transparency, queer enchantment techniques operate less by withholding data or opting out, and rather by taking advantage of the paradoxical hyper- and in-visibility that many queer and trans people playfully modulate through affect, play, and allure—ultimately overwhelming both the senses and the sensors.
Harris Kornstein is currently Assistant Professor of Public & Applied Humanities at the University of Arizona.
Danielle Beaujon, Graduate School of Arts and Science
Danielle Beaujon received her Ph.D. with distinction in History and French Studies in September 2021. Her research examines the intimate and oppositional relationship of police officers and North Africans in a connected Franco-Mediterranean world. Her dissertation, “Controlling the Casbah: Policing North Africans in Marseille and Algiers, 1918-1954,” interrogates the quotidian interactions between the police and North Africans in these two Mediterranean port cities. The project explores how the racialized policing of North Africans in Marseille and Algiers built not just on visual codes of race, but on the way that police practice mapped ideas of race onto the space of the city.
Danielle is currently a bridge-to-faculty postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Criminology, Law and Justice at University of Illinois at Chicago.
Arts & Humanities
Alex Boodrookas, GSAS
Alex received his Ph.D. in History and Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies in fall of 2020. His dissertation, "The Making of a Migrant Working Class: Contesting Citizenship in the Persian Gulf, 1925-1975," traces how struggles over citizenship and migration transformed decolonization, state formation, and politics in 20th century Kuwait and the Persian Gulf. It is based on research conducted across the US, UK, India, Oman, Lebanon, Switzerland, and Kuwait, drawing on periodicals, memoirs, corporate records, local histories, and interviews in Arabic and English. It examines how noncitizen workers were produced as such—as deportable, structurally vulnerable, and excised from formal politics—and how the rights of citizens and noncitizens proved to be inextricably intertwined.
Public Health & Allied Health
Yunyu Xiao, SSSW
Yunyu received her Ph.D. in Social Work in spring 2020. Her dissertation, "Social Network Influences on Trajectories of Suicidal Behaviors Among Adolescents Transitioning to Adulthood," examines: 1) trajectories of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts, 2) how social networks during adolescence influence suicidal trajectories, and 3) parental closeness trajectories influence suicidal trajectories, and whether future orientation may moderate the association between parental closeness trajectories and suicidal trajectories. Each of the three studies explores the racial/ethnic, sex, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic disparities in predicting suicidal trajectories. Through addressing the sociodemographic disparities in suicidal trajectories among adolescents transitioning to adulthood, this dissertation improves our understanding of the most sensitive periods, most important risk factors, and at-risk subpopulations to target. Findings address the importance of integrating social determinants of health to enhance suicide interventions for specific subpopulations.
Science & Technology
Esti Blanco-Elorrieta, GSAS
Esti Blanco-Elorrieta received her Ph.D. in Psychology in fall 2020. Her dissertation, "Towards an Ecologically Valid Neurobiology of Bilingualism," addresses the question "How do bilinguals manage to successfully communicate in the language they intend to, without constant and unwanted interference from the other language?" This work combines insights from linguistics, psychology, and neuroscience with a range of methodological approaches, including neuroimaging, machine learning, and naturalistic paradigms, to find an answer to this fundamental question. In the most naturalistic approach possible, she conducted magnetoencephalography (MEG) studies to deepen our understanding of bilingual language processing and inform a theory of the neurobiology of language that is more inclusive and comprehensive than the accounts that have been developed to date.
Junaid Farooq, Tandon
Junaid received his Ph.D. in Electrical & Computer Engineering in spring 2021. His dissertation, "Cyber-Physical Dynamic Decision Mechanisms for Large Scale Internet of Things Systems & Networks," lays down the theoretical foundations of decision and management science in IoT (Internet of Things) network design and operation, leveraging tools and theories from a diverse range of systems sciences such as mathematical epidemiology, spatial point processes, stochastic processes, optimal control theory, and optimization to address the challenges and problems at multiple levels across the IoT stack. Junaid has attempted to close the gap between the theory of dynamic mechanism design, and wireless and IoT systems, which required an interdisciplinary approach, drawing on understanding of the physical layer of communications, networking technologies, control systems, and operations research. This work takes a holistic cyber-physical view towards decision-making, when applied to large scale IoT systems and networks that may also be highly dynamic in nature.
Marcela Prieto-Rudolphy, Law
Marcela received her doctorate of Juridical Science in spring 2020. Her dissertation, "The Laws of War: The Fragility in Regulating Killing," is a study of morality of war - specifically, the legal privilege of killing in combat and the possible justification of that privilege. Combatants are legally equal during war: they are lawful targets, and they can kill each other during battle. Traditionally, philosophers thought this legal symmetry was also true of morality, but the opposite is true now; most philosophers think unjust combatants who kill just combatants are engaged in the murder of the innocent. The dissertation provides a pluralist justification for this privilege, examining the limits of an instrumentalist justification, calling on John Rawls’s distinction between ideal and non-ideal theory, and deconstructs the analogy between murder and unjust combatants’ killings by proposing an alternative morality of war. It introduces the idea of “moral permissibility” to the ethics of harm and examines the moral reasons that unjust combatants have for participating and killing in an unjust war, and argues that some features of the laws of armed conflict should be modified, particularly in relation to combatants’ ability to refuse to participate in an unjust war. This work assigns an important role to the reported reasons, attitudes, and experiences of combatants by engaging with them and testing their virtues and limitations.
Sarah Riccardi-Swartz, GSAS
Sarah received her Ph.D. in Anthropology in spring 2020. Her dissertation, "East of Appalachia: The New Russian Turn in American Christianity," examines the transnational, political implications of conversion alongside the social imaginaries of practitioners, paying close attention to the development of far-right religious formations in rural American economies. Based on twelve months of fieldwork in the Appalachian Mountains with a community of converts to Russian Orthodoxy, it complicates the standard narratives of rural Christians during a moment of intense political realignments in America, highlighting how long-standing tensions between the US and Russia are dramatized in the unexpected turn to an eastern faith. This work shows how American converts are drawn to Russian Orthodoxy because in it they find not only a rich religious experience, but also an alternative form of right-wing politics that emphasizes church-state unity by stressing the need for monarchic governance, patriarchal gender role constructions, and social morality. In doing so, it reverses the usual vectors of conversion that have privileged Western Christian missionization globally, asking us to consider what the embrace of Eastern Christianity might mean for the transformation of American religion(s).
Roxana Mihet, Stern
Roxana received her Ph.D. in Economics in spring 2020. Her dissertation, "Essays on Information Frictions in Macroeconomics and Finance,” examines the effects of the FinTech revolution on financial markets as well as on the economy. The dissertation's three chapters present (1) an empirical investigation into global attitudes towards risk, establishing that culture matters for information and knowledge management with implications for differences in the degree of institutional and economic development across countries; (2) an assessment of the implications of Big Data for market structure and competition in the economy, a topic at the center of a fierce debate around antitrust policy in the digital economy; and (3) the role of progress in financial information technologies on wealth and income inequality, concluding that it is primarily those with the size and skill capable of extracting meaningful information from alternative data who stand to gain the most from AI and FinTech innovations.
Zhengbo Zou, Tandon
Zhengbo received his Ph.D. in Civil & Urban Engineering in spring 2021. His dissertation, "Towards Emotionally Intelligent Buildings: An Integrated Approach To Quantify Human Emotions In Designed Spaces," This work explores how we might improve built environments by quantitatively understanding how architectural design features impact human emotional experiences. Drawing on construction management and sensing and advanced visualization technologies, Zhengbo combined these tools into a novel method: presenting design alternates as virtual environments and conducting experiments to gauge subjects’ physiological responses while navigating the virtual environments. Zhengbo's dissertation sets out to (1) propose a mechanism to quantify design features’ impact on human emotional experience using an integrated approach that combines biometric sensing and virtual environments; (2) identify a set of biometric sensors and their signal features that are effective in quantifying human emotional experience; and (3) propose an algorithm to accurately classify human emotional experience in design alternates using biometric sensing data.
2020 Winners & Honorable Mentions
- Eman Abdelhadi, Graduate School of Arts and Science
"Losing Women: How Gender Shapes Community Embeddedness among Second Generation Immigrant American Muslims"
- Rachel Bandler, Sackler Institute of Graduate Biomedical Sciences
"The Genetic Logic of Interneuron Differentiation"
- Robert Collinson, Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service
"Essays on the Economics of Housing Policy"
- Emilie Connolly, Graduate School of Arts and Science
"Indian Trust Funds and the Routes of American Capitalism, 1795-1865"
- Paulomi Niles, Rory Meyers College of Nursing
"Kairos Care in a Chronos World: An Analysis of Midwifery Care in Urban Public Hospitals"
- Maurice Shirley, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development
"Understanding the Effects of Student Employment on College Completion for Undergraduate Black, Latinx, and White Students at Two- and Four-Year Institutions"
- Roozbeh Soleymani, Tandon School of Engineering
"Multi-Talker Babble Noise Reduction in Cochlear Implant Devices"
- Yeshim Iqbal, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development
"Speaking Up: The Role of Women's Social Networks in Responding to Street Harassment"
- Gregory Lemberskiy, Sackler Institute of Graduate Biomedical Sciences
"Time-Dependent Diffusion in the Body"
- Erica Liebermann, Rory Meyers College of Nursing
"Barriers to Adoption of Evidence-Based Practice for Cervical Cancer Prevention in the Dominican Republic: Practices and Perspectives of Providers in the Santo Domingo and Monte Plata Provinces"
- Rachel Piltch-Loeb, School of Global Public Health
"Optimizing Risk Communication in an Emerging Threat: The Impact of Information Seeking Behavior and Information Source on Intervention Receptivity Evidence from the 2016 Zika Epidemic from the United States Population"
- Aliza Shvarts, Tisch School of the Arts
"The Doom Performative: Aesthetics in the Space of Interdiction"
Inaugural 2019 Cohort
- Chloe Greenbaum, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development
“Development and Mixed Methods Evaluation of a Trauma-Informed Intervention for Juvenile Justice-Involved Youth”
- Kalman Katlowitz, Sackler Institute of Graduate Biomedical Sciences
“Cortical Mechanisms of Vocal Sequences in Birdsong and Human Speech”
- Rachel Nolan, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
“Children for Export: A History of International Adoption from Guatemala”
- Melissa Ojemeni, Rory Meyers College of Nursing
"Comparative Policy Responses to Managing International Nurse Migration to the United States and the United Kingdom from 2004 to 2014"
- Xupeng Mao, Silver School of Social Work
"The Relationship Between Social Support and Subjective Well-Being Among Older Adults in China"
- Masi Asare, Tisch School of the Arts
"Voicing the Possible: Technique, Vocal Sound, and Black Women on the Musical Stage"
- Graeme Koelwyn, Sackler Institute of Biomedical Sciences
"Acute Myocardial Infarction Accelerates Breast Cancer Progression"
- Steven Dallas, Leonard N. Stern School of Business
"There Ain't No Such Thing as a Free Lunch"